Sunday, April 3, 2011

Notes from the Magic Kingdom of California

Recently, I was disturbed to learn that Jerry Brown and the Republican leadership engaged in dueling YouTube posts, joining the UCLA coed whose post about Asians in the library went viral.

On May 30, 2010, I posted the following:
It's fitting that Disneyland was created in California.

It's fitting because we now have two branches of state government that live inside the Magic Kingdom of the late 1950's - in two "lands" far away from reality. The Governor's Office has been relocated to Fantasyland. The Legislature has relocated to Tomorrowland.

Way too many of the voters of California also live inside the Magic Kingdom - in three radically different worlds far away from reality and incomprehensible to each other.

Some live in Main Street USA, a fictional early 20th century Midwest town totally without a corresponding community reality in 21st Century California.

Some live in Frontierland hoping to confront the challenges of the 21st Century with a muzzle loading rifle while wearing a coonskin cap - a reality that never existed in California even when Ronald Reagan was Governor.

Some live in Adventureland where crocodiles, hippos, and other "African Queen" dangers, completely foreign to and absent from 21st Century California, fill people with fear and consume tremendous amounts of their psychological energy.
It's clear now, with the election of Jerry Brown, Californian's put the perfect Governor in Fantasyland - Governor Moonbeam - to replace The Gubernator.

Some may think by my use of the moniker of Governor Moonbeam, I'm calling him names.

Jerry Brown honestly earned the moniker "Governor Moonbeam." After all in a 1978 Rolling Stone interview Linda Ronstadt called her then boyfriend, Jerry Brown, her "Little Moonbeam." Yes, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mike Royko picked it up and applied it to Brown and later apologized noting that Brown was a serious politician.

But at the time he initially used it for a reason. And it really wasn't because Brown wasn't a serious proposition. In fact, he was a very serious Governor Brown, according to an article by Peter Gwynne in the August 25, 1977, edition of New Scientist:
Now, Jerry Brown has latched onto a fresh political issue with futuristic overtones: space flight. After months of growing interst in present and future space projects, Brown went public two weeks ago. On the event of the first free flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter, he supervised "Space Day," a celebration of the space culture in Los Angeles....

The exploration of space is necessary, he preached, because it diverts man's aggressive instincts away from war. He called on his own state to lead the US into "the everlasting frontier of space." One possible vehicle for that mission, he said, would be a California state satellite, that could perform such down-to-earth tasks as monitoring scarce water resources, linking classrooms with expert teachers, and improving communications in the state.
Sure, that was forward thinking as we view it from 2011. That was in 1977. He was Governor. His State was in turmoil, lacking a realistic political leader. For those that don't remember, less than a year later, June 6, 1978, the voters confirmed that Brown was completely out of touch with reality - look up Proposition 13.

From the moment Royko coined the moniker, I went "aha.'

I'm not calling him names. I'm trying to remind people what's wrong with this guy, because he's still out of touch with reality. I realize it's probably futile.

Just remember this was the Governor, the dreamer, who froze highway construction, leaving the replacement of many dangerous stretches highway for the future while people died on them for more than decade. He thought people should get out of their cars. Perhaps a good idea, but not for the Governor of the State of California in the 1970's. He was out of touch with reality then, and still is.

And he's residing in Fantasyland. Consider the use of YouTube at this point in time when we need leadership again. Just considering age, the number of people who will vote on any tax measure he may get on the ballot in the near future is inversely proportional to the people who watch him on YouTube.

In that May 2010 post I commented:
Jerry Brown, of course, was the guy who started California down the road to bankruptcy when he was previously Governor and was dubbed Governor Moonbeam. I guess he thinks he can fix the problems he created.
We know now that he did not intend to fix the problems he created. He doesn't think he created any problems back in late 1970's.


Sometimes it's hard to fault California's voters for deciding to live in the Magic Kingdom. On March 26, the San Francisco Chronicle, together with Bloomberg, published the following:
California added almost 100,000 jobs in February, fueled heavily by a rebound in high-tech and entertainment positions, state officials said Friday. The state's unemployment rate fell to 12.2 percent, down from 12.4 percent in January.

"We have ourselves a recovery on our hands," said Howard Roth, chief economist for the California Department of Finance. "This was an awfully good report."

The strongest growth, on a percentage basis, came in the Bay Area, he said, with increases in technical, scientific and consulting jobs.

"It's the best piece of economic news for California we've seen in three or four years," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy. "The basic strength of California's economic base has weathered the storm."
For a week now, I've been trying to figure out why these responsible news agencies did this.

Indeed the Employment Development Department issued a news release on March 25, 2011, one which offered the following tables:

What these tables show is a seasonally adjusted increase in employment of 12,000 or an unadjusted increase of 24,000. So what's with this 96,500 jobs increase?

Well, there are two sources of data. What the news release says is:
Nonfarm jobs in California totaled 14,055,900 in February, an increase of 96,500 jobs over the month, according to a survey of businesses that is larger and less variable statistically. The survey of 42,000 California businesses measures jobs in the economy. The year-over-year change (February 2010 to February 2011)shows an increase of 196,300 jobs (up 1.4 percent).

The federal survey of households, done with a smaller sample than the survey of employers, shows an increase in the number of employed people. It estimates the number of Californians holding jobs in February was 15,917,000, an increase of 12,000 from January, but down 36,000 from the employment total in February of last year.
Of the two sources of data, one is done by the State which surveys a group of employers, and the other, done by the federal government, which surveys a group of households. One reported a gain in jobs of 96,500, the other 12,000. This level of discrepancy in the statistics was not reported in the article.

The feds also provide weekly unemployment claims data. The number of continued claims for the week ending February 5 was 627,285 while the number for the week ending March 5 was 614,229. That's 13,056 fewer continued claims. That just doesn't feel like there could have been an increase in jobs of 96,500 in February. In fact, EDD reported 263,505 initial claims filed in February which seems to correspond to the federal data.

Some "feel good" data regarding jobs nationally was noted on Friday for March. The problem is, the data isn't very reliable and - as honestly graphed by the New York Times - it looks like this compared to previous recessions:

Keeping things simple, no reason for optimism exists. More particularly disturbing in that optimistic Chronicle/Bloomberg article was the statement that the supposed California jobs jump was "fueled heavily by a rebound in high-tech and entertainment positions." Those are "job bubble" positions.

The article also notes that "The strongest growth, on a percentage basis, came in the Bay Area, with increases in technical, scientific and consulting jobs." As I posted previously, here is a 20 year (1990-2010) graph of total employment in the Bay Area (click on it to see a large version):

To summarize the graph, the high tech and bio research capital of California failed to see any permanent job increases over the past two decades.

The fact is The Great California Slump resulted in a net job loss of about 1.4 million in California. It is not likely that by 2020 even a third of these jobs will be recovered on top of the job growth necessary to keep pace with normal increases in the work force resulting from normal population increases.

Finally, what bothers me the most is the quoted glowing comments in the article from Howard Roth, chief economist for the California Department of Finance, a cabinet-level agency under the Governor that prepares his budget proposal. Either Roth is not qualified for the job or the Moonbeam effect covers Roth.

Or to put it another way, we all should understand that Roth's office is located in the Fantasyland area of the Magic Kingdom run by Governor Moonbeam.

No comments: